Setting Realistic Goals for the New Year

January 2, 2024 Michaela Jarvis

Setting goals is great, but setting realistic goals is even better. It’s the beginning of a new year, which means it’s the beginning of New Year’s resolutions season. While thinking about my self-improvement, I believe it’s important to set realistic goals that are easier to maintain and won’t leave me feeling like I’m fighting against the impossible.

Burning Out from Unrealistic Goals

There is a buzzing and renewed energy at the beginning of the year. Shopping carts are full of healthy food, gyms are gaining traffic, and books are being read. While this is delightful, there may be pressure to create practically unattainable expectations of oneself.

Once the buzz wears off, the goals become harder. After falling behind a few times, the motivation wears off. Once I feel that a goal is too difficult to achieve, I’ll likely give up.

If you’re like me, you have a love-and-hate relationship with goals. Sure, the success is great, but the pressure I put on myself can lead to guilt and shame. With bipolar disorder, I tend to set high goals in a manic episode, only to ignore them during a depressive episode. Or I get excited and set too many goals, and for someone who already struggles with focus, having too many goals makes achieving everyone harder.

Why Focus on Realistic Goals

My moods, energy levels, and ability to focus are rarely consistent. One day, I may be able to cross everything off my checklist, while another day, I may struggle to do the basics. It feels like I’m asking myself the impossible to go to the gym every day, eat only “healthy” foods, and spend an hour working on self-development on days when I struggle to leave the bed.

As someone who has to manage a mental illness, I’m working on being extra kind to myself. I already suffer from ongoing feelings of guilt, anxiety, and insecurity, so creating a new reason to get down on myself is unhelpful and hurtful; that’s why I avoid lofty goals.

How to Set Realistic Goals

When setting goals, I need to be honest with myself. I get easily caught up in the excitement, but I know I must evaluate what is doable.

I’ve tracked my habits almost daily for two years. This isn’t to say that this is the only way to self-reflect, but it works for me. I can visually see what I am capable of. For example, in 2022, I spent a little over 130 days being active. In 2023, my goal was to hit at least 150 active days, which I was able to achieve. I never asked myself to be active every day because I knew that was not going to happen. I gave myself grace and let myself rest on bad mental health days.

It feels good to create and achieve goals, especially when it’s something I know will improve my mental health. While goals can improve your mental stability, creating unrealistic expectations can hurt your mental health. Unrealistic goals create the opportunity for shame and anxiety. Being honest with yourself and creating a doable plan with realistic goals is a great way to create a better version of yourself.

APA Reference
Jarvis, M. (2024, January 2). Setting Realistic Goals for the New Year, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Michaela Jarvis

Michaela Jarvis is continuously on her road to self-improvement while managing bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the life challenges that come with being in your 20s. Find Michaela on Instagram, LinkedIn, and her website.

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